Monday, 15 December 2014

Year of Qualifications

Last Saturday we moved to Sydney. The city that God put on our hearts all those years ago (see Launchpad blog) and the place we felt that many words spoken over our lives, prophetically, would come to pass.

I guess with this blog update I just wanted to be real and give a frank review on what life has been like in Melbourne since last September. It has been very tough and has pushed us further than we thought it was humanly possible to be pushed in terms of living out and emotional roller-coaster while holding onto God's promises.

Clearly we knew that moving to Melbourne was a bit of a detour as we always wanted to be in Sydney and although God had spoken to us and we knew we had to be in Melbourne for a season, we still had questions in our hearts as to what exactly God was doing through us there.

Right from the beginning we had let down after let down. People were not phoning us back for work opportunities, things were being promised and not fulfilled and we just couldn't seem to be in that comfortable, settled feeling, that we really craved. Probably the only thing keeping us going was the church we were attending. Each and every week we'd hear astounding teaching and would come away feeling fresh and lifted up. It would only be the tough days in the weeks that would knock us back down again.

It is really hard to explain what moving to a different country and culture is like. It's kind of familiar in that people in Australia speak the same language as us but at the same time we've had to learn how to interpret what people actually mean. Australians in general are very warm and sincere people, and they say amazing things to make you feel wanted and loved. However, we have found that many times people have just not followed through on what they've said which has, many times, left us feeling deflated and let down. We have always try to think that people get busy and then forget, but when we're talking about work applications it becomes much harder to understand why people would simply just not phone back.

As well as this, we have sometimes felt very alone. Understandably we had many friends in the UK and you never think that they are going to be replaced and that it's going to take hard work and commitment to make new friends. But sometimes, when you are going through many testing times; lack of work, lack of money, feeling let down and completely unsettled, etc, you just start to give in and feel extremely low and sad. It's natural for anyone to feel like this.

Looking at the last six months, I'd say it's been even HARDER than the first six months. When I did finally get a full time job with regular money, I then had to work away from home and only see my family at weekends. I just kept asking God, 'Why is this happening? We've laid down our lives for you and this is REALLY hard!!' All God would ever say back to me was, 'just trust me.' And so I (and my wife even more so) just had to trust Him.

As well as me working away from home, my mum was in intensive care in the UK with vasculitis, shingles and viral meningitis. She nearly died twice. I cannot explain in words what this felt like. To be so far away from home and know all this was going on and to not be seeing my wife and kids for comfort was agonising. BUT. Though it all, I trusted God. I'm glad I did because she is alive and in recovery at home - hallelujah!

Back in England, everyone thought we were having an amazing time. All they saw on Facebook was pictures of stunning beaches, updates on how many people on a weekly basis were getting saved at church, pictures of the kids cuddling koalas, Instagrams of stunning Melbourne and us saying how great God was. The thing is, both my wife and I hate being negative and didn't want to say publicly what we were going through, as we felt friends back home would be worried sick about us. It was only when someone pointed this out we realised that we hadn't been authentic at all. We had faced mountains in our faith and had faced them alone because we didn't want to say what was going on.

Now. After reading all of this you are probably thinking 'what the heck? Why didn't you just come home?' Well, the thing is, we heard so many life changing preaches that we began to understand something profound about our circumstances. God was ALLOWING us to got through these things because He was QUALIFYING us for even greater things! In fact we learned that to suffer for the sake of God's calling on our lives was actually a privilege and an honour because He was saying, 'You have what it takes to go through these things and every time you face these challenges and just learn to trust me, I am giving you a new qualification to be able to handle even bigger situations - WELL DONE for being faithful even when you haven't understood why.'


So now, looking back on the last 14 months, I wouldn't actually change a thing. I feel like as a family we have grown more in God than we EVER could have done if we had stayed in England and not obeyed God in moving to Melbourne. In fact, without that detour to Melbourne we would not have been prepared or equipped for this next season in Sydney. Is Sydney going to be easier for us? Probably not, but it will be different because we now have what it takes to face new challenges.

When we felt like it was time to move to Sydney, it felt like God was saying that we had been victorious and it was now time to get out of the difficult harbour and experience the ocean and the goodness of God. The other thing that happened was my job came to and end at the beginning of November, our lease was due to run out and it just felt like God was giving us permission to finally step into the city He had spoken about over 10 years ago.

Now we are in Sydney I am fully expectant that God is going to use us massively. All what we've learned as a family and individuals will be such an encouragement to people around us. Sometimes God can allow you to journey the hardest of road and its very hard to keep going but I am so grateful that He has never let us down. He has been faithful to His word in EVERY circumstance and although it's been the hardest thing we've ever done, we have never said no to His leading, either. We have just learned to trust Him.

So now we are in this new season, I am more confident than ever that moving to Australia and learning to trust God in every single circumstance can only mean that we will get to experience Him in even greater measure from now on. I am so excited that we have finally arrived and I promise that I will certainly write more as we see Sydney transformed and lives changed forever.

What is God qualifying you for at the moment? If you are facing low seasons, don't see them as trials, see them as God saying 'Well done my child, I am qualifying you for something new - SOMETHING BIGGER IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!' Amen!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Trusting Through Pain

When I was asked to work in another city recently, my family and I had to make a decision that was ultimately going to push our faith to it's absolute limit.

Now I know there are people who are used to working away from home and whoever you are and manage family life around that, I salute you. But for us this was tough because I've never been away from home for longer than 14 days, let alone the 27 days it's been so far. Hopefully, tomorrow, I'll get to go home to my wife and children, but in the meantime it's provoked me to write this latest blog post to encourage any of you going through a difficult season.

One of the main reasons for this being so tough for us as a family is the fact that we only moved to Australia less than a year ago and are still adjusting to living in a new nation, so to be asked to work away from home for five weeks in a totally different city felt like a big blow to us. I asked the question over and over, 'after the year we've had, Lord, why this now?'

You see, since arriving in Melbourne we've gone through some deep tests spiritually. As well as finding our feet with schools, work, taxes, attending a new church and learning a new culture, we have experienced a season with virtually no money and just generally feeling like every part of us was being stretched and stretched. Thankfully that particular season didn't last too long as I began my new job and started to bring in a stable income, but then my mum in the UK was taken extremely ill and for the last four months has been battling a horrendous wave of sickness. So being asked to be away from the only people I am most close to in all of this was very hard!

Two days before I left home for Adelaide, my wife and I sat down to pray and ask God what this was all about and whether we did need this extra stretching. Not that long after we began praying God spoke to my wife and said, "Adam NEEDS to be in Adelaide." We found this an interesting way of saying things because it meant to us that there was a purpose to this trip, however long it was going to take, that would help shape and mould us for something better than what we were living out - even though it meant a season of separation and pain first. And it was and has been painful.

Seriously. I can't think of a time when I've felt more isolated and alone in a place, especially as my job has required me to work nights, six nights a week. So even if I wanted to enjoy my new surroundings, my new adopted sleeping pattern has meant that it has been nearly impossible to do so. My only hope that I arrived with was that I'd at least find a church that I could make my temporary home and hopefully make some friends. Thankfully, the latter has happened and I have made a few great friends that I know will be long term.

But what is the need for this new blog post? Surely I know that this season is nearly over and I'll be home soon and therefore there is no need to dwell on a difficult few weeks. Well the reason for this post is because there has been things I've learned that I wouldn't have already - I believe that these things will encourage anyone going through a similar time in their lives.

You see, it's taught me to trust in God even more that I ever have done before because He's all I've had here. Without Him I seriously don't know what I'd have done. He has shown me that I don't need to trust in provision but to trust in my Provider. He has taught me that when He is all I have, He is everything I need. He has also shown me that I can make decisions which are based around His promises for my life and when I step into these by faith, I can receive abundant joy and provision that goes way beyond anything I ever imagined.

Like Jonah in the bible story, I didn't want to go to where God wanted me to go because I didn't trust Him enough to begin with. I could have easily gone my own way and done what I thought was right at the time. I remember saying to my wife, "this doesn't make any sense at all - so I guess it must be God." When it came to the day of leaving home I felt very low and extremely disappointed that I hadn't been given a way out.

But you know, five weeks after I got here, with only one day left, the revelation has finally hit me. God has been wanting to get me here to trust Him, more than I've ever had to before. He has put me in the middle on nowhere to show me that He knows what I need. What do I need? God!

I have learned in this horrible season, that no matter what I face, God is the answer to my happiness. It's crazy because I have actually wasted the time I've had here because I've been moping about and feeling sorry for myself that I've been 'all alone'. But tonight I realised that I haven't been alone. God wanted to get me here because He knew, even if it was the final day, that everything I need can be found in Him and I don't need to ever feel alone or helpless again.

You know, my family and I took this step of faith to move away from family and friends because it is what God told us to do. We didn't know where we were going to live, we didn't know what job I'd have, we didn't know if the schools would be any good for our kids but we TRUSTED God. And He has not let us down. So to ask me to be away from them was another faith step - would I be prepared to trust God in an even tougher season than before? At first I definitely didn't think I could, but the tiniest part of me did. I've realised now that this is the mustard seed of faith Jesus spoke about in Matthew 13 (v31 - 32).

That tiny part of my faith knew that God was in it even thought the rest of me was going NOOOOO! And now, within a few hours of realising this, my faith has grown and I have an uncanny sense of the peace of God. It is marvellous.

So this is the reason for this blog. No matter what you are going through, whether you know God or not, He just wants you to put your trust in Him. Because out of that trust comes peace and out of that peace comes joy. It is a profound mystery of God but one I know he wants us all to experience.

He is so faithful.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Unreasonable Faith

In 2013, when as a family we were preparing to move to Melbourne, there were a few concerns: We didn't know anyone, we had no work, we had no house, we had no schools, we had no idea of the culture and we didn't have a church. To anyone looking in on this decision from a level-headed perspective, we were simply barking mad. But, for us, this was never about what we wanted, we went to Melbourne because God told us to. This move would take unreasonable faith.

Now, clearly, there were many years of preparation going into this move and it wasn't a flash-in-the-pan choice to up and leave our home in England, but what was startlingly obvious to everyone and us was the fact that for eight years we'd been saying that we were going to move to Sydney because we felt God say He wanted us in Sydney. So imagine for a second what it was like when we got offered sponsorship for a permanent visa but we'd have to move to Melbourne instead. This was never on the cards. This wasn't in our planning. This hadn't been spoken about.

The only time when God did speak to us about Melbourne was only two days before we had our visa granted. But it was in the way He chose to speak to us that caught out attention and therefore seemed to settle our hearts to the point of an unusual peace. I was sat having a conversation at a church event, and then a random stranger who I still don't know to this day spoke out and said: "God says you need to move to Melbourne. He showed me two city names, one was Sydney and the other was Melbourne - but Melbourne was in much bigger writing. I asked God what that meant and He said He'd switched the cities around. You are meant to go to Melbourne!"

If there was ever a moment I could have fallen off my chair with shock, that was it.

Before I move on, let me give you some background info. I have been in and around churches which are part of a church movement called New Frontiers all of my life. My parents were one of the couples that saw the birthing of this back in 1977 and at the age of two, I didn't really have a choice but to be part of this new thing. My wife, had become a Christian and was baptised in a New Frontiers church (funny enough it was the sister fellowship to the one I grew up in) and has only ever known New Frontiers teaching and theology. And just to be clear, the leaders God raised up within New Frontiers have helped shape who I am today. I hope by now you are starting to understand what God was asking us to leave behind. This was, like I said earlier, totally unreasonable.

You see, this wasn't just a change of countries. This was a complete change in our Christian life. This was a new beginning. There was no New Frontiers church in Melbourne when we arrived. Where would we end up? Only God knew, we didn't have a clue. But He'd said 'GO' so we did.

So literally two weeks before leaving the UK, a dear friend came up to me and said that we should be consider visiting Planetshakers Church because it was 'awesome' and she'd been there. Then within 15 minutes of that conversation, another mate said; "Someone I know lodged at my house for a bit and spoke about a church called Planetshakers, maybe you should go and check it out."

Now for me, my first reaction was 'strange name for a church' but my second reaction was 'why did two people just mention that church?'. I hadn't heard about this 'Planet' thing but all of a sudden it was as if I knew we had to check it out when we got to Melbourne. And we did.

The first Sunday we arrived at Planetshakers Church were were terribly jet lagged and went into this massive building all a bit confused by how many people were milling about. Where were we? When we went in, the music was deafening and it all felt a bit crazy but the people were smiling, friendly and clearly excited about what God was up to. I remember coming out and thinking 'what the heck was that? The preaching was amazing but is this really the place for us?' I chose to give it to God and we then started the process of trying to settle in to our new country.

After a few weeks we had made connections with two couples in the church who seemed really great and they had invited us to their Urban Life group which met at their house, not far from where we lived. And as we got to know these guys, we began to get a sense of what Planetshakers was about and what it meant to those who attended - everything we heard and saw on display were not just reminders of our own core values from New Frontiers but also visions of what the leadership of the church carried for the city of Melbourne and beyond. It just felt right.

Every week since October 2013, church has just got better and better and better. Every week feels like a treat to just sit and listen to Godly goodness washing over us and we have grown so much in Him that it was very evident to our dear friends when we went back to the UK for a short visit recently.

You see, when God asks us to take a step of faith, He does it knowing what the outcome is going to be. We struggle to see what God means to begin with because we can't see the full picture but we HAVE to trust Him. When we do, it feels like He's saying, "Well done for trusting Me, now I'm going to give you THIS!" The outcome is always far greater than we ever expected and that's what has happened to us. Planetshakers Church is the fruit of God saying 'go to Melbourne' and us saying 'OK'. It is far greater than we ever expected.

Since being part of it, I've seen more people becoming Christians than I've ever seen before, we as a family have grown more in our faith than ever before. My children are praying every night and my 9 year-old has started prophesying. Our house now hosts the Urban Life group we first went along to back in October. We can't stop talking about what we've heard on Sundays as a result of the incredible teaching.

Perhaps the best day of all (so far) came two Saturdays ago. My wife and I attended the Encounter Day which is the final day of Planetshakers' membership course called DNA. OH MY GOODNESS!

If there was ever a day that I can look back on and say 'now that was significant' this would be that day. We sat and listened to the leadership team speak about the call and commissioning of the church and what that looks like for them. We all got to literally shred our old lives and put on the new. We got to witness many many people experience freedom in Christ for the first time.

But for us the biggest part of the day was the anointing. I have been in church, like I said, all of my life. I thought that I'd seen it all, but when the leadership team came around and anointed each and every person with oil it was like we felt as a couple the FULL weight of what our church leadership were carrying in terms of what God was wanting for them. It was mind blowing. You see, that's the thing about God, He's inexhaustible - just when you think you know it all, He's shows you something new and it blows away any concept you ever thought you knew about Him. He is amazing.

All I want this blog post to show is what can happen if we simply trust God in what seems unreasonable and move forward into what He's asking us to do. We might not have all of the answers and sometimes He asks us to have faith in things that at the time just seem completely against all human reason. There may not be anything organised or set in stone for our human understanding and there may just simply be that whisper from Holy Spirit saying 'just go for it'.

What we have journeyed as a family this last eight months has only come about because we said 'yes, we will.' I'm not naive to think we won't have more struggles than we've had (and believe me there have been moments where we felt we've been holding on with our finger nails), but I know also that God is so pleased with us because we were obedient. The reward so far for us stepping out in unreasonable faith has been so very good and I know that God hasn't finished yet, either.

That makes me very excited.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Generosity leads to Prosperity

DISCLAIMER: Before you read this article, I feel I should share that this is purely a testimony to God's amazing provision for my family and I and has been inspired by what we've experienced in the last six months and what God has taught us through this. This article is not in any way written to laud ourselves in glory - all praise and honour is due HIS Name, which is Jesus!

Being a Christian is full of tests and trials and most of these come from a loving Father who wants the very best for His children. Sometimes we go through tough times and feel God is very distant and in other times when everything seems to be great, He feels close by and we feel peaceful. But there are some things God asks of us that really test our faith. To us as a family this normally involves our finances and each time, the Father stretches us even more than before.

Personally, I've not really known many times during my adult life when I've been out of some sort of financial debt - whether it be a credit card, loan or borrowed money from a friend. My wife has a much better sense for seeing everything for how it actually is and so marrying me has been a bit of a shock but because of her constant support, we have got much better with money and I'm beginning to learn that being strong with finances is something that God is wanting to put in place so I can be responsible with more of the stuff.

During the last six months God has tested us more than ever with our money but we've seen God provide in ways that just blow away any doubts that the steps of faith we have taken as a family have been in vein. To others who have witnessed what God's actually been asking us to do, it has seemed totally alien and some have even called us crazy. But actually to those with any common sense it IS crazy! However, when God asked us to be obedient (whatever the test) it would be more crazy for us not to trust Him and do what He said.

The first huge test for us was back last summer (2013). We were readying ourselves to move to Melbourne, Australia, from the UK and had many possessions which for anyone moving house, let alone country, would have made a good return and could have been invested into our new home - IF we'd have sold them. But God challenged us. He had began stirring something deep inside us both about sowing into people's lives and how blessing others is worth so much more we could ever dream of. We had in the past given people money or things to bless them but this time God was asking a whole lot more. He was wanting us to GIVE everything we had away. Yes, even our car.

Now, we're crazy enough to not think twice and go for something mad, but the more we thought about what God wanted us to do, the more we knew what an impact it would have. Not just from the people who were going to receive stuff for free but what riches God would store up and then give back to us over time. After all, God does say in the Bible to test Him in finance and this was a big one.

If you know me well enough, you'd know that I love music. My CD's were once my prized possessions and before I had a son who used to use them as slidy things for his feet. They were spotless, always in alphabetical order (sometimes chronologically) and some of them blimmin' expensive. For Cats (my wife), her interests lie in her clothes and she had mountains of dresses which were on constant rotation around the local towns as friends would keep borrowing them. Our kids had toys and things that were dear to them and even they were starting to talk about who they could give things to.

So during the last few weeks of living in England we had a constant stream of people coming into our home and leaving with armfuls of CDs, DVDs, a dress or two, or some toys and clothes for their kids. It was amazing to see people leaving with huge smiles and it left us with a real sense of God cheering us on as we did what He'd asked us to do. But believe me, there was a huge cost to this, too.

It wasn't just about my U2 collection, or Cats' favourite dresses going. It wasn't even about our car being given literally to a stranger who needed a car. It was that all these things meant something to us deep down and that they could've also been used to finance new furniture. They were sentimental, memories. We gave away the whole lot. Looking back now as I'm typing I can still understand what that must've looked like and how utterly crazy it seemed. But the thing is, God's plans and purposes for our lives mean a lot more to Him than a bunch of CDs.

When God calls His children to take radical steps of obedience it is a complete honour. To me it feels like He asks us to go through stuff for Him because it means that we've got what it takes to make it through. It's a bit like a boss at work giving a promotion because he or she has seen qualities that others may have missed. God commissions out of us a heart of generosity because He has been so incredibly generous to us, this then leads to His favour being poured out. Prosperity follows our courage to obey Him.

For us, we saw God provide instantly when we arrived in Australia. Our hotel room was upgraded to an apartment because of a leak from upstairs - this was strange because there was no pipes or running water above where the leak was! Secondly, we'd check our bank account in the UK to see what money we didn't have and there would be deposits paid into our accounts. Some of these were really large sums. Then we found a perfect house to rent and were accepted by the landlord straight away, no questions asked. This is unusual in Australia because in order to rent you need a history of paying rent and we didn't have any.

Numerous other things kept happening that were totally out of our control. One of which was when our house in the UK was sold. After leaving the UK the value of our house had dropped which meant we'd be a few thousand pounds down on what we thought we'd get. But by the time we completed the sale, we'd received anonymously exactly the same amount of money. We hadn't lost a penny! Not only did God provide extra, it also meant that once we'd paid out all our moving expenses and old debts which we couldn't settle before leaving England, we were totally debt free!! I can't even begin to say what that feels like. And the good news is, we still are and it still feels AMAZING!

Sometimes though, when God challenges you, obedience is hard because as humans we can't see the outcome. But we have to trust God because He KNOWS the outcome! It's an incredible lesson to learn and although we haven't learnt it fully, we're beginning to get better at recognising His voice and knowing that everything will be OK.

This leads us on nicely to another area we have been affected in and this time has nothing to do with finance. God wasn't just asking us to give stuff away. He was asking us to leave EVERYONE. CD's and dresses you can replace. Friendships and strong bonds you've made over many years aren't so easy to find again. God wasn't just asking us to be generous with our money, He wanted us to be radical enough that would see us waving goodbye to those who were closest to us. All I can say at this moment is thank you JESUS for Skype!

This, and I know my wife would agree, has been our greatest challenge. Ever. We have both felt very fragile at times and there are moments when all you want to do is reach through the screen and grab and hold onto the person staring back at you. It is very, very hard. If any of you have ever thought about relocating countries to follow your dreams, just make sure you know God's in it, too. You become acutely aware of what people mean to you when you don't have them near you. If it wasn't for the red book, sitting on a shelf in the other room, which is full of the promises of God, I can honestly say I think we'd have cracked by now. But we haven't.

What has happened instead is another testimony to God's provision. Not only has He provided us with everything we need; a car, a job, a great house, an incredible city, fantastic weather, lovely people and beautiful food, He has provided an incredible church which is teeming with life and full of passionate worshippers. God has opened up a door for us here which we could have missed if we'd have stayed where we were and not taken a radical step forward. Every Sunday we come out of church blown away by what we've just witnessed. Don't get me wrong, our church in the UK was pretty awesome and it's a dangerous thing to compare so I'm not going to. All I am saying is that at the right time in our lives we know we are where we're meant to be by what we are being taught through mighty men and women at Planetshakers Church, and through the new friends we are making.

We are connecting with amazing families who have incredible stories. We are witnessing the body of Christ blessing others around them and hearing stories of even more radical steps of obedience than what we've been through. Not only is God doing an incredible thing through His church but He's providing new friends for us who live locally. He's provided work for me with a brilliant bunch of guys, our kids have got school buddies and ride around the local park of their bikes. It feels like we are basking in God's love and I have to say it's the best feeling in the world.

Yes, this testimony of what God's been doing seems like a good old pat on the back for us but it isn't. Without God constantly caring for us, constantly making sure that we feel loved and have the very best from Him, I would not be writing this blog to testify about how good He is. We have got a heck of a lot to learn and what's more we have only been here for four months but what I do know now is this: God is always faithful. When He asks you to be generous with your money, do it. When He's asking you to lay down aspects of your life to follow Him, do it. When you go through the hard times, know this: God will never let go and will never stop loving you and He will always have the victory. Why? Because Jesus won it all for you on the cross.

Two nights ago we went for a swim in the sea at sunset. As I looked out towards the horizon I just felt the Father's love in such a vivid and incredible way. It was like He was saying; "All this is yours, well done!" And that's what inspired this blog. I felt God was wanting me to tell this story, not to come across proud but to testify of His goodness. He is utterly amazing and I'm pretty sure that we are not the only ones with a story to tell like this, either. My only hope is that this story inspires many to come to God in times of hardship and to ask Him where He is in the situation they're facing - I have no doubt that when you do ask Him, you'll know that He is providing your every need because He is your Father and you are His kids. What loving Father wouldn't do that?

Finally, a little challenge. If you are just about to sell something you own for a bit of cash and you know God as your heavenly Father, stop and ask Him who needs what you've got and give it to them. It's madness, but it's completely counter-cultural and you have just sown into someone else's life! Have fun :-)